Adapted: The Awakening

A young married woman, unsettled in her domestic sphere, takes the plunge into a new life.

Kate Chopin’s 1899 novel The Awakening is a mood that passes through you: the feeling of being between comfort and restlessness, between satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Chopin’s heroine, the 20-something Edna Pontellier, spends her days at a resort on the Louisiana coast taking care of her two children, attending to her husband, and rebuffing the advances of Robert Lebrun, the son of the resort owner, who follows her around breathlessly.

Edna is the embodiment of what Betty Friedan once called “the problem that has no name,” an unhappiness that women of the time could not quite identify. Photographer Kelia Anne MacCluskey found it easy to reimagine a young woman unsettled within the domestic sphere and considering a liaison with a new lover. “I imagine this temptation living in the details: she romanticizes his every move,” MacCluskey explains. “But she begins to see that her newfound independence might conflict with her desire to love. Edna’s desire is to be with someone—but mostly it is to be with herself.”

 

 

It would have been a difficult matter for Mr. Pontellier to define to his own satisfaction or any one else’s wherein his wife failed in her duty toward their children. It was something which he felt rather than perceived, and he never voiced the feeling without subsequent regret and ample atonement.

The Doctor ... told the old, ever new and curious story of the waning of a woman’s love, seeking strange, new channels, only to return to its legitimate source after days of fierce unrest.

“You are burnt beyond recognition,” he added, looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage.

He could see plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could not see that she was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.

Meanwhile Robert, addressing Mrs. Pontellier, continued to tell ... of sleepless nights, of consuming flames till the very sea sizzled when he took his daily plunge. While the lady at the needle kept up a little running, contemptuous comment.

It was not that she dwelt upon details of their acquaintance, or recalled in any special or peculiar way his personality; it was his being, his existence, which dominated her thought, fading sometimes as if it would melt into the mist of the forgotten, reviving again with an intensity which filled her with an incomprehensible longing.

We shall be everything to each other. Nothing else shall be of any consequence.

She was flushed and felt intoxicated with the sound of her own voice and the unaccustomed taste of candor. It muddled her like wine, or like a first breath of freedom.

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